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Once upon a time in York, United Kingdom

The Museum Gardens

Story - told by Lorna Davies

Within the sloping banks of the Museum Gardens, on the north bank of the river Ouse lies the remains of St Mary’s Abbey. Once a powerful and noble Benedictine monastery, what still remains today gives a little glimpse into the grandness that once was. Positioned opposite the Minster, a stronghold for place of worship within the city walls, the abbey quickly became powerful.


Being one of the city’s biggest landowners, they were also running various lucrative businesses, including a bakery and the monks were printing books. Many local merchants resented their prosperity, and they were notoriously self-indulgent in their wealth. The abbot was in a position of power, and the abbey homed 40-60 monks that were kept busy with the granaries, mill, brewery, and barns including other duties.

The walls that remain today were used on many occasions to defend the grounds, in various issues regarding land ownership and taxes. Eventually, the monastery was forced to close down under King Henry VIIIs ruling to ban all monasteries. It became a personal abode to the King when he visited York, and eventually fell into ruins before being used as agricultural buildings. The stone was reduced throughout time, some stolen and some sold, the land around became used for animals to graze.

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